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Political Kabuki Theater

Every time we bump up against the debt limit we get both parties going after each other for not taking things seriously and/or playing games, not to mention we also get all manner stupid comments ranging from racist to sexist to classist. We also get misleading statements. One statement in particular that always comes up is that Congress has already racked up bills and it needs to pay them, or words to that effect. Obama is quite fond of that one.

The problem is that it’s intentionally deceptive.

Congress is not bound by any laws passed by a preceding Congress. Congress can repeal existing laws, change them, suspend them, pretty much whatever, but there are two other powers Congress has to deal with things like this, defunding and regulating the sale of treasury securities.

There is no authority granted to the President either by statute or by the Constitution, that would allow him to sell more debt without congressional approval. Even if you overlook the fact that Congress doesn’t have to fund or continue programs and laws enacted prior to their swearing in, it still remains that the President would be committing the US to spending without congressional approval, something expressly forbidden by the Constitution. Spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives and gain approval from both chambers, followed by a veto override or the president signature before the spending becomes law.

It should be obvious to everyone that committing the US to pay interest on debt that is forbidden by law, would constitute a very serious violation, of the separation of powers. You don’t think we will ever see tyranny here? If the president is permitted to unilaterally raise the debt cieling to pay for programs previously enacted, I find it hard argument to make that he couldn’t do the same thing with taxation.

“Golly gee, Congress hasn’t budgeted for ________, oh well, get my autopen ready, I have to enact a national sales tax! If Congress doesn’t act to pay it’s bills, I will”
~The first president to be impeached, removed from office and floated out to sea on an iceberg shared with a starving polar bear

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 2013/01/16 at 23:13

    The argument doesn’t go, “Past congresses have passed laws funding x, y, and z, thus we must continue to support those laws.” It goes, “We’ve already spent this money, so we need to keep up with the bills. Unless you want the economy to take a hit like it did when the GOP pulled its last debt ceiling stunt.”

  2. 2013/01/17 at 13:26

    Congress needs to both approve spending and borrowing, they are two different things or do you dispute that piece?

    Just because a previous Congress has spent, that does not bind a future Congress to borrow to pay for it. The debate can be had that they should, or that the democrats or republicans are out of control, insane, reckless,whatever, but Obama cannot just bandy about borrowing as he pleases because the law says that X is to be spent on Y. The law also says that only Z can be borrowed.

    And like I said, even if you take the view that he could unilaterally borrow to cover the spending in law, unless he can do it at 0% interest, that is additional spending, which can only be approved by Congress, no matter what your interpretation of law.

    That’s all I’ve argued. I don’t know what you’re on about.

  3. 2013/01/21 at 21:08

    Where is this argument you’re ranting against? No one is saying the President can borrow as he pleases (as per your most recent, brand new argument), and no one has said the present congress is beholden to the acts of any previous congress (as per your original, entirely different argument). We just need to pay for the stuff on which we’ve already spent money.

    At any rate, you’re going to want to wait a little more than a year before you start advocating that we fail to raise the debt ceiling, thus harming the economy again. Then, after the mid-term elections, you’ll want to keep quiet for another year or so until you and your Republican bros have a candidate that needs the economy sabotaged again to make the Democrats look bad.

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